Why ban plastic bags?

On Friday, the government announced that they had decided to ban ‘single use’ plastic bags, effective from next July. RNZ reports: quote:

The government is pledging to rid the country of single-use plastic bags by July next year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage have made the commitment at Wellington’s Lyall Bay beach this morning.

“Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags – a mountain of bags.”

New Zealand is one of the highest producers of urban waste in the developed world, per capita, according to OECD data.

Ms Ardern said many plastic bags end up polluting the country’s coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life.

“And all of this when there are viable alternatives for consumers and business. It’s great that many people are already changing the way they shop but it’s important we take the time now to get this right.” end quote

The question I need to ask is : Why?

If you look at online polls on the subject of banning plastic bags, there are always more people in favour than against. So it is reasonable to assume then that a large number of people already refuse plastic bags when shopping, and have reusable bags of their own.

Supermarkets have been phasing out plastic bags now for some time. Many supermarkets do not provide them now at all, but those that do already have a programme to phase them out. My local Countdown is cutting them out at the end of the year.

All Mitre 10 stores stopped providing plastic bags and boot liners in July. The Warehouse has always charged for plastic bags, but now offers only the reusable ones for a small charge.

So it is obvious that, whether or not we agree with it or not, so called single use plastic bags are on borrowed time.

I’m not intending to debate the stupidity of the decision, which is, of course, without question. It is virtue signalling, nothing more. However, it has occurred to me that supermarkets have a vested interest in this particular piece of virtue signalling, as it must cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to provide those pesky bags.

What I am questioning is why the government decided to go for an outright ban on something that is gradually disappearing from our lives anyway. quote:

“I also underestimated the strength of feeling amongst everyday New Zealanders around this issue. One of the groups of people that have helped me realise how much people care about plastics in the environment were children,” she said.

“The biggest issue I get letters on from the public are about plastics and it comes from children. I literally get hundreds and hundreds.” end quote.

So she just uses a purely emotive line to justify her stance. Does she not understand that it does not improve her credibility if she allows government policy to be dictated by 7 year olds? quote:

“We in government have a role to play in the way we manage these kinds of issues and the way we respond to the public when they call upon us to address what might seem like a small issue.” end quote.

But, like I said, it was already happening. Plastic bags were toast. By July next year, virtually all supermarkets will have stopped providing them anyway. So why was there a need to do this now?

I think it was nothing to do with letters written by children. Do you think she would listen if she received hundreds of letters from children asking her to reduce the school week to 4 days?

This is all about control. Pure and simple.

It wasn’t enough that plastic bags were being phased out anyway. The government decided it had to pass a law to control people’s behaviour. Because, Labour governments always do.

And, let’s face it, now they have the Greens onside, who want to control absolutely everything. quote:

Ms Sage the mandatory phase-out would be developed under the Waste Minismisation Act.

“The Waste Minismisation Act was groundbreaking when it was introduced in 2008, and today’s announcemnet is part of this government’s plan to use that act to its full potential… and to shift the economy to being a more productive and sustainable and inclusive economy.”

She said that New Zealand, as a nation, needed to turn the tide on plastic pollution. end quote

The tide was already turning. This was not necessary.

This is our lightbulb (and showerhead) moment. Remember that? It was one of the things that brought down the last Labour government, because people felt that the government was becoming too dictatorial and interfering too much with people’s day to day lives.

This time, a lot of people agree with the phasing out of plastic bags, so this may not be seen in the same way. But there are lots more things to go. Plastic straws. Cotton buds. Sugar. Alcohol in supermarkets. You name it, the government could ban it.

It will be interesting to see what they ban next. Because they will.

First, they came for our plastic bags…

 


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

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